So, what’s been going on with me the past couple months?
Well, I left my job in Madrid at the end of April, and then in May I did a CELTA course. It was great, though very difficult. I will write a review of the course…eventually.
In June I came back to the US, and right now I’m just staying with family. I started applying to what seems like a million recruiters to help me find jobs in Korea. But it wasn’t looking too promising. There are plenty of private school/hagwon jobs that I qualify for, but I really wanted to work at a public school because the hours are better, you get more vacation time, and you aren’t overworked. Some people might disagree, but in my opinion public school jobs in Korea are just a better deal. But I guess I started applying too late, because most of the public school jobs in the cities have gone already.
I started looking into other countries for the millionth time. And just out of curiosity I applied to a couple recruiters who were looking for females to teach in Saudi Arabia. I was offered a job and sent a contract within a week. Now it’s just a matter of doing visa stuff.
Now why on earth would you want to live in Saudi Arabia? I’m sure you might be thinking this. I mean, aren’t the women there practically human slaves, and you have to live under sharia law, and you have to wear a burqa?
Well, Saudi Arabia might not be as bad as you think.
Of course, women’s rights are a huge issue there. And yes, it is a very traditional islamic country because of their history, so I, like any foreigner in any country, will have to be respectful of their laws. This includes: no alcohol, no speaking with the opposite sex in public, using female only entrances and facilities, and wearing the abaya with a head covering in public, which is different from a burqa. I think abayas are kinda pretty, actually.
But from what I understand, foreigners are given a little slack. For example, I hear that some women can get away with not wearing a head covering. And of course I wouldn’t need a man’s permission to do anything.
Also, women there aren’t as oppressed and voiceless as we tend to think in the west. They do have jobs. They do go to school. There are female only universities. They study abroad. They speak English. They can’t drive, but some activists are trying to change that. Many of them enjoy their lives. They enjoy their traditions and customs, even if it might seem conservative to us Westerners. I’m not trying to say that human/civil rights isn’t an issue in the Kingdom, but Western media does tend to exaggerate things about countries that are different from ours. The above video is part of a reporter’s investigation of women’s lives in KSA. You may be surprised to see how this working mom blends tradition with modernity in her daily life.
That being said, why the heck would I STILL want to live there? Honestly, it’s not my first choice. (Heck, Korea isn’t even my first choice.)
It’s about the one thing that makes the world go round: money.
I hate to sound superficial, but it’s true. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia offers some of the highest salaries for ESL teachers in the world. I’ll be making the lower end of that salary range because of my limited qualifications and experience, but when they’re paying for my accommodation, transportation, round trip airfare, health insurance, and visa expenses, I’ll be able to save most of my paycheck. Which means I can pay off my student loans and credit card debt within 2 years instead of 20.
I am a little worried, because based on forum posts and blogs, turnover seems to be high, and teachers seem to be very frustrated about working at various locations in the country. I mean, I’ve read things that made me want to back out. But I’m going to stick with it because 1) money, 2) the experience and opportunity (how many people can say they’ve been to Saudi Arabia?) and 3) as of right now, I think it will be tough but I can handle it.
I will be sure to post updates. I’ll either be leaving at the end of this month, or the beginning of next. If anyone lives in Riyadh, hit me up! In the mean time, I still want this blog to be about more than just what I’m doing at the moment, so keep an eye out for more editorials.
Would you ever live in Saudi Arabia or anywhere similar? Tell me in the comments.
Header image is of the Kingdom Tower in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia. Via recycleharmony/flickr.